“אשרי יושבי ביתיך עוד יהללוך סלה – Happy are those that dwell in Your house – they shall praise You forever.”
This verse is interestingly not from the same chapter of Psalms as the acrostic Tehilla LeDovid. It is actually located in Psalms 84:5; and the body of the prayer is Psalms 145. The Sefer Hearot Letefilla points out that the reason for this introductory verse is taught in the Talmud tractate Berachot 32B that states, “The early pious and righteous Jews used to meditate and prepare themselves for an hour before beginning prayers to Hashem.” The Talmud brings as a proof our Pasuk “סלה… אשרי” Since the saying of this Psalm is so significant (as we pointed out last week) our sages implanted this poignant verse as an introduction to inspire greater concentration and proper intent.
The verse is also expounded upon in Tractate Sanhedrin 91A. The Talmud explains “Happy are those who dwell in Your house” to mean in This world. “They shall praise You forever” means in the World To Come. Happy in this prayer implies spiritual happiness. The Hebrew word for happy is אשרי which is always in plural. One who is happy, is generally happy about many things. When one accomplishes spiritual happiness through learning and living Torah and Mitzvot in this world, he/she will merit continuing in this fashion in the World To Come.
The Maharsha advances a striking insight. He states that it is evident from this verse that our life in the World To Come is simply an extension of our lives here on the Earth. “עוד יהללוך סלה – They will continue to praise You” (the same way they were doing it on earth). What we accomplish in this world spiritually is our passport to the World to Come. The insight of the Maharsha is transforming.
May each and every one of us achieve “אשרי יושבי ביתיך – in order that we should all merit עוד יהללוך סלה”.
Rabbi Epstein, Congregation Sons of Israel Cherry Hill NJ